Jake Fussell: American Songster Podcast Radio Episode 7

Dec 6, 2016

Jake Fussell didn’t have to look far for musical inspiration in his home state of Georgia.  Even before he picked up a guitar, he was surrounded by some of the region’s most storied performers and committed documentarians.  Fussell grew up in the town of Columbus, GA, the son of parents whose passion was studying, teaching, and presenting regional culture.  For Fussell, an American folk song like “Raggy Levy” isn’t just an archival find.  It’s a part of his lived experience. 

“I first heard ‘Raggy Levy’ when I was a kid,” Fussell explains to American Songster Radio host Dom Flemons.  Fussell’s 2015 recording of “Raggy Levy” is one of several tracks that he and Flemons play on Episode 7 of the podcast. 

“My parents were friends with this couple, Doug and Frankie Quimby.  Doug and Frankie were a younger generation who sang with the Georgia Sea Island Singers.  They had toured around with the older generation who Alan Lomax recorded in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.  So I actually didn’t hear Alan Lomax’s recording of ‘Raggy Levy’ until later, after I already knew that song from Doug and Frankie singing it.” 

The banjo, Fussell points out, was an instrument-non-grata in the eyes of folk song collector Cecil Sharp. How did it later become an icon of mountain music?

As representatives of an emerging generation of performers and researchers, Fussell and Flemons share fresh ideas on this topic and other issues that shape the perception of the region’s culture.

To close out the show, Flemons performs his version of “Yonder Comes the Blues,” which he learned from the recordings of blues legend Ma Rainey.  By condensing this big band number within the sparser sound of country blues, Dom illustrates one of his favorite approaches to adapting the classics.

Check out a video of Jake Fussell performing “Star Girl” with guitar experimenter William Tyler:

Learn more about Fussell’s album Jake Xerxes Fussell